The story of a rescued mini, by Roberta Whitman
Being an amateur with limited knowledge about driving and no experience with minis, I jumped into owning my first just one year ago. She was a sad little mare, a rescue. Starting in Texas, I was told, she was most likely destined for the kill pen as she traveled from one auction house to another, packed into an open truck with many other minis all the while having to survive the extreme cold of winter. No food, and only one bucket of water to share for 14 days as they bumped along the highway until they reached their final destined in Florida. A kind horse dealer saw the remaining minis that did not sell at auction, and she took in what was left. She ran an ad trying to sell all of them before Christmas of last year. There were only two minis remaining when I saw the ad: my buckskin mare and a little paint.
My heart cried out for this poor thing now standing alongside a stack of hay, thin and dehydrated, long hair tangled, with her head hanging down. She looked like a very dirty Yak that had gone through the mill. With some trepidation, I found myself calling to inquire about her. I listened to the sad story of how she traveled from Texas shoulder to shoulder, squeezed in so tight, then finally ended up in this horse dealer’s sand lot about 100 miles from my farm. To make a long story short, I purchased this sad little horse over the phone sight-unseen, and made arrangements to have her delivered to our farm. Her health was questionable. Her sadness was obvious as she stumbled out of the manure-packed livestock trailer. From that moment on, I decided to just spend time with her every day and get to know her. She gobbled up the love and affection with the same enthusiasm she gobbled up her now-plentiful food. Before long we started to exercise, with her trotting alongside my golf cart.
This mare was certainly working her way into my heart, and because she would dart for every clover patch she could find, I named her Clover. Now, I’m not supposed to ride anymore, having had back surgery, yet I felt compelled to do something with this little mare. Was it possible this little rescue could be trained to drive? I decided I wanted to learn how to drive and felt sure I had the right mini to do it. My background involves years of working with my horses for hunter, jumper, and dressage; Driving would be my new challenge.
Without hesitation, I obtained a nylon harness, put it on her, and continued to condition her trotting alongside the golf cart until she had regained some weight and strength. I was not sure exactly what I was doing, but felt it would not hurt to continue exercising her with her harness on. She loved our daily outings as we trotted all over the farm. Slowly I started to add things like empty gallon water jugs, and flapping plastic garbage bags from her harness as we trotted across the open fields. This desensitizing was noisy and it was wild, yet she trusted me and never argued. I was so pleased with her transformation because she was getting happier all the time.
After a few months, I started to long line her. It took her a while to catch on, but we persevered. We both eyeballed the used Easy Entry cart that I found, and then, one day, I just hooked her up to it. She was very tolerant of this new thing trailing behind her, as I hand lead her with a simple lead rope and halter over her bridle. Eventually I let her continue walking while I snuck behind the cart holding onto the lines helping to guide her. I walked and walked until my back could not take the pounding any more. I noticed she would toss her head and act uncertain at times. She would stop, look at me and then resume. I could not understand why, because she was so giving and had never argued. Still she did as I asked and we spent hours and days like this until I decided I had enough and just sat in the cart while she walked on. That thrilling moment when you realize you have just achieved your dream!
We continued our routine for days and weeks, until I contacted Comfy Fit Harness and told Janie my story with Clover. She made some suggestions, and before I knew it Clover was being fitted for a new properly-fitting harness. The original nylon harness was simply binding and rubbing Clover, making her feel very uncomfortable. The snaffle bit was pinching her mouth, and our whole set up just obviously did not fit right. Once we got the Comfy Fit harness, we never experienced any more stopping, turning around to look at me, or shaking of her head. She truly is a 24-carat gem, and has been the best driving mini ever since. We now enjoy pleasure driving in the evenings around the entire farm, through the cow field with little calves running up to greet her, rambling through the woods, up and down the ditches, and anywhere in between.
It has been a year since I first laid eyes on my Clover. Seeing how happy she is now just warms my heart. Of course, she is not the only rescue or abuse case to go from rags to riches, but she is mine, and she is my story. Knowing how comfortable she is in her harness, and knowing how she lives to please is very gratifying.
I’m 72 and retired. My goal is to someday take her to the local Senior Center and let the seniors visit with her. I suspect Clover will be a good ambassador when the time comes. The greatest gift she could give was to allow my 88-year-old husband Jack, who knows nothing about horses, drive her up and down our driveway.
There are a few special people who have provided the right information at the right time to facilitate my being able to help turn this mare from sad to happy, and they already know who they are. My thanks to them all. Blessings like this little mare don’t just happen…. it takes a special animal and special people to see it through.